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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

September 16, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Not just any day job: the view from 11,000 feet

Scientists were atop Mount Rainier recently, servicing an array of volcano monitoring equipment.

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Jon Connolly, left, of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network atop St. Andrew’s Rock on Mount Rainier with Marc Biundo of the USGS to service volcano monitoring equipment.

Photo courtesy USGS

Mount Rainier is, to be sure, one of life’s most beautiful work stations, an angel’s redoubt high in the sky, which the team happened to deploy to during some of the most beautiful weather of the year last week.

“We were practically down to tee shirts,” said Jon Connolly, a software engineer with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, of the University of Washington, which provides seismic monitoring of the mountain in cooperation with the Cascades Volcano Observatory at the USGS in Vancouver, Wash.

Connolly flew in last week to St. Andrews Rock, on the west side of the mountain, between the Tahoma and Puyallup glaciers — what may be the highest seismic site in the contiguous U.S., to work at servicing equipment at about 11,000 feet.

“All three of us got sick on the first day,” Connolly said. He mounted GPS antennas and solar panels and hefted batteries. But what a work site.

“It’s beautiful, you are in the middle of two active glaciers. You can see Mount Adams and Jefferson and Mount Hood. All day long you hear the booms and cracks of the ice calving, It’s an exciting place to be.”

That high, there are no trees of course, no sign of humans, not even much wildlife – though he did see lots of signs of goats. And the mountain is incredibly active.

“There are landslides all around us, and ice avalanche, it is just a wild and adventurous place to be. Signs of goats everywhere.”

The St. Andrew’s station is a particularly beefed up detection site, run with about 20 batteries. “It takes quite a beating over the winter, it looks like it had been overrun by a glacier,” Connolly said. Most likely, it was.

To see his amazing photos from his trip, check out this link.

For more photos, enjoy this suite of images on the USGS-CVO website.

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